My mother works in the education field, and she I would have numerous discussions about all the things that are wrong with how we teach children. From my point of view, I think that there are much better ways of getting the most out of students rather than having them sit at a desk and recite. Teachers can also learn from students as to what is, and is not, getting through to them, and students can learn a lot from each other as well.
I always felt that learning should be both interactive and stimulating, and it rarely ever was either one of those when I was in school. Correcting that problem seems to be the idea behind Oppia, a new open source education initiative from Google that was launched on Thursday.
Oppia is a project that "aims to make it easy for anyone to create online interactive activities, called 'explorations', that others can learn from," Google said.
Here's how it works: the project starts with a mentor, who asks questions for others to answer. Based on those answers, the mentor can then decide what question to ask next, what feedback to give, whether to delve deeper, or whether to proceed to something new. The process becomes more interactive because the students are guiding where the lesson will go, and not the other way around.
Part of the point of Oppia is to gather data on how people are interacting with that project to help it work better and quicker. The person who created the project can more easily spot problems in the curriculum by finding which answers many learners are giving but which the system is not adequately responding to.
That could mean that the next question that the exploration is giving is not related to the previous question, or it could be too difficult in relation to what came before.
To fix this, the creator makes a new learning path for it, "based on what they would actually say if they were interacting in-person with the learner. Oppia can then give this feedback to future learners."
Basically, someone creates an exploration, which can then be built, and collaborated on, by multiple people from around the world. It is done through a Web interface, and no programming is required.
"You can think of this as a smart feedback system that tries to 'teach a person to fish,' instead of simply revealing the correct answer or marking the submitted answer as wrong," said Google.
Google's education initiatives
This is not the first time that Google has dedicated resources to the education space.
It also has Google Apps for Education, which offers free resources to schools and universities, as well as a partnership with Samsung, announced last month, to launch a new Galaxy Tab exclusively developed for education, which will be available for K-12 school deployments for the 2014-2015 academic year.
In January of last year, Google gave a grant to the U.K.’s Raspberry Pi Foundation that was to be used to bring 15,000 Raspberry Pi Model Bs for school kids around the United Kingdom.
And, just yesterday, Google launched its first MOOC-style course, called “Making Sense of Data," which is now open to the public.
Google put up a YouTube video to explain how Oppia works:
(Image source: https://www.oppia.org)